View Full Version : First time driving in Russia - rumours?

01-05-2011, 22:50
Good evening.

A group of 4 of us are planning to drive our old car to St Petersburg (getting ferry from Stockholm to nearby city). We have heard a lot of rumours about Russia being a "dangerous place to drive" and that we will be subjected to lots of corruption and need to pay bribes. We have also been told that it isn't safe to drive in the countryside and there are "gangsters".

I know it is general, but how much truth is in these rumours? Should we be scared away, or is the likelihood that as long as we are sensible and clear-headed we will be fine?

We were also wondering about whether we will need any documents aside from a valid driving license and the ownership papers and insurance documents for the car. Is it normal to be able to exit Russia at a different point from where you enter?

Thanks in advance :)

Tony P
02-05-2011, 00:22
Going through your points in order-

1. Dangerous?
Not from a driving point of view, accepting that you adapt to local styles. Moscow driving will certainly be a culture shock - but once you understand how is works, and drive accordingly, all will be well as, amazingly, it works.

2. Bribes?
Be aware of the road/traffic rules. If you do nothing wrong there is no reason to get into a position where an 'unofficial' payment could be a possibility of a cheaper and faster resolution to your wrong doing. Being stopped for document checks is a regular event and not sinister - I get these far more in my UK registered car than in our local RUS registered one. This is no doubt because the guys are bored and looking for something a bit different and more interesting than the usual. If the documents are correct they will wish you good journey.

3. Gangsters in countryside?
I have been warned of this many times, particularly by family. I suspect to their disappointment, over the last 6 years I have driven/ridden more than 40,000 miles/65,000 Kilometres across and to almost all the 4 corners of Russia and never experienced anything intimidating. Use the same simple personal safety precautions and awareness as anywhere else in the World.

4. As you say be "sensible and clear-headed" and you will be as safe as anywhere - and enjoy a surprisingly agreeable country and people.

5.Documents. You need and should always carry
A> the original Registration Document plus Letter of Authority if it is not your name,
B> Your 'home' Driving Licence plus preferably an International Driving Permit
C> Insurance. They used to insist on a Russian Insurer but I believe Green Cards are now OK. I usually buy Russian Insurance at the border - it is not very expensive and saves documentation check problems. (Your EU insurance should cover you throughout the EU)
D> Customs Declaration document for the car, completed and bar-coded as issued to you at the border entry point. This serves as the car identity document.
E> Passport (with Visa), Migration Card (issued on entry) and Registration (personal).

6. You can exit at any another border crossing, to any other country - subject to the border being 'full International' and not restricted to locals (such as with Georgia and some minor crossings with countries such as Kazakhstan. Mongolia. You must surrender the bad-coded Customs Declaration and Migration Card before they let you out.


02-05-2011, 01:01
Nothing to be added!

I have been driving since the beginning of 90s, when it was not very pleasant indeed.

Now it is much much much (5 times) better.

Not perfect (the quality of road) + some traffic signs are quite irrational (I guess, some ploicemen still use this as a good reason to catch drivers, who break some stupid speed restrictions or resrtiction of overtaking).

A lot of petrol stations now with food stores and WC (in 90s, your WC was in the forest or the road), a lot of cafes, where you can have a cup of coffee and eat smth without a threat to be "poisoned" (I mean, the quality of food cooked).

Be confident and your trip will be pleasant.

But be aware that you need to know russian ABC at least (some signs have two languages option already) and the fact that in cafes, petrol stations between cities and towns you will have some problems with English speaking people.

Oh, another advice is that Mastercard and VISA are accepted in cities (Amex is not popular here still), but between them, it is worth having some cash (as for pertol stations it is more or less OK).

02-05-2011, 21:36
Tvadim133 and Tony P thank you very much. This is helpful information, and will hopefully also help to put my friends' worries more at ease. Thanks!